Friday, February 23, 2024
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FijiFirst govt was right about Ahluwalia: Usamate

FijiFirst MP Jone Usamate says the Bainimarama led government was right about University of the South Pacific Vice-Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia and disallowing him to remain in Fiji.

In a statement, the former Minister said that Vice-Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia was in fact not allowed to operate from Fiji because he breached the conditions of his work permit.

Usamate highlighted that the staff of the USP were vehement in objecting to the Government’s stance then, and they called for him to be let back into the country.

He said now, it is a 180-degree turnaround by the same USP staff who wanted him back.

“A complete change of view by USP staff. The same people who were supporting Prof Ahluwalia have turned against him. The Staff Association President Elizabeth Fong was his biggest supporter. She is now calling for his removal.”

“He is soon reaching his retirement age and the union has made a call to the council, not to extend his contract.”

The Opposition MP said when the FijiFirst led Government stopped paying grant to USP; it did so for the simple reason to get an independent enquiry done on the basis of Audit and Risk Committee’s recommendation. This was never done.

He said the situation dragged on and became a political issue.

He said some Ministers in the current government, including Deputy Prime Minister’s Professor Biman Prasad and Viliame Gavoka and the Prime Minister, were stinging in their attacks on FijiFirst at the time, during their election campaign.

“Fiji is the largest contributor to USP and has all the right to request independent investigation.”

“I understand that VC Ahluwalia still operates from Samoa, where he stays in a resort and makes frequent visits to Fiji and stays in a hotel incurring huge costs to the university. Yet he is not paying attention to staff matters.”

The Opposition MP said they were never anti-USP; we just wanted to make sure that governance at USP was effective and efficient and was in the interest of the people of the Pacific.

Usamate said this latest episode attests to our misgivings and sense of foreboding.

“USP must be set right,” he said.

Ilaitia Ravuwai
Ilaitia Ravuwai
Journalist | news@fijilive.com

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